Hailing from London, Lauren Auder is releasing her debut studio album, the infinite spine on July 21. For the occasion, the French-British artist sits down with us to speak about the creative process leading up to the culmination of her record – a collection of personal memories, self-discovery, and fight for justice. Full of symbolism, realism, and self-expression, the infinite spine demonstrates the cohesive genius of Auder’s musicality and meticulous approach to creation.
Thank you for reaching out and speaking with me today. Congratulations on your upcoming debut album the infinite spine. How do you feel?
Thank you! It’s a really big deal, and I’m excited.
Let’s start with the title: the infinite spine. I understand that you had the name of your album long before any of the tracks were recorded, or even conceived. Where did this title come from? And how did its meaning change as you began to put the entire record together?
I was trying to find some kind of image, some kind of all-encompassing image, something that felt really ancient, something cool like an aurora borealis, and these symbols that feel instinctively locked into human consciousness - some kind of archetypal figure. At the same time, I wanted to convey the horror that these symbols can install in you.
We have this idea that there’s an eternal occurrence, the eternal graph of life, and how sometimes aimless and scary that can feel, so I wanted this image - the disembodied spine that doesn’t really go anywhere, that’s lost its purpose as the backbone. I think the image just felt so strong to me. It felt so visceral, so human, but I also wanted that underline that there was some form of structure and something that could be used as the backbone of creating the self.
I don’t know how much that may have changed, necessarily. It almost just became more clear what it was that I was travelling towards. When I was making these songs and putting them together, it became more prevalent in my own life as a concept and as an idea. It was really about the unfurling of this infinite spine. It becomes the path and the scaffolding from which to build itself around.
I think it’s fascinating how you had such a clear concept in the beginning and how your songs really crafted into that same theme, which created a very great cohesion between the entire record. I’ve read you say a work of art “can have a whole world contained within it, but there is a limited amount of time to express something.” How do you know right now is the right time? And when do you know when the time has passed to express something?
It’s always a negotiation. It’s a negotiation between the self and the practicalities of making a record, making music, and presenting that to the world. When that happens is sometimes out of one’s hands, but for me, I had this concept when I started making this record, and it felt like not only was it necessary creatively for me to begin making a debut album, it felt like it was time both in my career and where I felt I was creatively.
I believed it to be a vital mission that I set myself on to unfurl this spine myself, for myself, so I think I found myself at the crossroads. It was the moment just for me to figure out who I wanted to be in the beginning of my adult life and creatively to make something that felt like a body of work. It really just found itself at a similar time. I think these things often happen in this way and sometimes synchronisation is often the challenge that comes before you. It’s very much reflective of your inner self and where you are in life.
I think that’s the beautiful thing about where you are in your career. You’re really using the art as art and are able to express where you are in your life. I’m also a musician and a stage actor, and the thing about art is that you’re doing it for your own individuality and self-expression. I see a lot of times with mainstream artists - they’re making music for the fans or for publicity - it loses that individual touch. I find it interesting how you’re able to use the art for yourself and share a part of yourself with your listeners.
Yeah, I think it’s interesting because it’s one of the most seductive things that art has to offer - this idea that this is a process by which you can create yourself and also express yourself. It’s funny. I feel like the art calls to be made, regardless. I had arrived at a point where I was making an album, and the album wanted to be made. It became a tool for figuring out who I was. I think that’s the beautiful part about making things in general is that a lot of us know when we’re infected with the parasite of needing to create.
It’s like the chicken or the egg situation. I don’t know exactly whether it’s the need to express that makes the art or if it’s making the art and then figuring out how to use it as a tool. I think it’s an interesting process - figuring out how your creativity can reflect on your life and can be used.
Your debut album was the culmination of 4 years of writing, recording, and producing, and 5 years of releasing EPs and crafting your sound. It tells the tale and shares the emotions of your journey of becoming and embodying womanhood with confidence. How did Covid affect your process - emotionally, socially, and artistically?
For many artists who were at a similar stage as me in Covid, I had a tour planned and was just about to release an EP at the time that Covid hit, and it was difficult for practical reasons but even emotionally to have all these tracks that I wanted to live in the world. They still had their impact, but it felt like a deflation. I think all artists were feeling similar things, but at the same time, I was forced to retreat back into myself.
In that regard, I can never say whether it was a good thing or a bad thing, but it definitely influenced the shape of the infinite spine. I spent the many months, seeing a maximum of a couple of people. During that time, that’s when the ideas and lyrics began to take a more constant shape. For this record, I really wanted to take a step back and take my music to what I considered to be the next level at the time. The process felt interesting and new to have the opportunity to look inwards.
The names of individual tracks are a unique aspect of your record. They have numbers mixed with names and other words, which give a very mysterious feeling to listeners as if the titles are coded. What does this mean to you personally? And what was the intention behind this choice?
There are a few answers to that. On one level, purely, these are just numbers and names. They are all very significant to me personally and when I was writing the songs, they kind of put themselves together in that way.
I’m ever so slightly superstitious. I believe in creating these personal magic formulas where you can put something together and the meaning can still transfer even if it’s not direct. I wanted to have this gnostic and secret school feel to it where you know what it’s like when you see something that you don’t have the keys of comprehension to, but you know that there’s meaning behind it. It drags me in and makes me feel closer to the thing - like I’m invited to be a part of it.
In another way, I often approach making work from the point of view of a teenage music fan, like how I was when I was a teenager. I know exactly the kind of things that scratched my itch and my intrigue. It’s always these kinds of things where you feel like you’re given a bit of a secret entry into something that not everybody has the keys to understand. There’s this thing where I feel the intrigue draws your attention.
Even for some of the numbers, I don’t truly remember what I was getting at, and it’s interesting because I’ve been writing these songs for so long - these scribbled down names and numbers and the creation of the whole album. That is exciting - that there’s still the mystery that I was attempting to create for myself.
That’s very interesting, and I appreciate that kind of artistry. It’s amazing to have an aspect of the records that you keep to yourself with personal meaning, where people can find differences in the records for themselves.
3 of the 12 tracks of the infinite spine have already been released, 2 of which also have music videos - hawthorne81 and atoms. These two videos share a lot of parallelisms as viewers are met with a very intimate and close-up view of your face throughout the entirety of the music video. One thing that stood out to me was your eye contact with the camera throughout the videos. In hawthorne81, you made eye contact with the camera on the climactic point of the song, then several times throughout the rest of the song. In atoms, you only made eye contact with the camera once at the end of the song. What is the significance of eye contact with the camera? How does it key into the message you were trying to share?
Those two songs are coming from different perspectives. For hawthorne81, it was written as a call to arms. The song itself begins in a place of deep frustration with the outside world and the oppressive feelings of being in society - being othered and unconsidered by the powers that be. It begins with an acceptance of defeat, and progressively as the song reveals its secret, it will never be enough to just deny and separate yourself from the world. That’s what the beginning of the song is suggesting. If the world doesn’t accept us, then we’ll ignore it and disassociate ourselves from it. The rest of it is saying that that will never be enough and what we want is change, a difference, and to be understood. Just the fact that it’s such a call to arms and a rallying cry to be loud and to be understood, it felt important that that was the main message.
Meanwhile, atoms is a much more deep, personal, and on-the-nose track. It was also a very sincere and autobiographical track in a big way, more so than hawthorne81. It has very specific name drops of places and people. It’s much more of a storytelling song, and it’s establishing a scene. When the climax hits, what I wanted was for all of these things that were obviously quite born from my life to invite you to find your own pocket within these aspects.
Your music in the infinite spine is grounded in horns and marching band percussion. How do you see the correlation between being a transgender musician and depicting your story in your art and these musical tools - the horns and marching band percussion?
I wanted to be very decisive with the palette of this record. Although there were elements of electronic, rock, and pop music, it was very much string-based as opposed to my previous records. I wanted to make a change and make something that felt quite orchestral. I wanted to work with a palette that felt more physical. The brass section is pretty much on every track and all over the record. It’s truly a physical instrument to be played because it’s breath. It’s not necessarily a very complex metaphor.
The two main things I really wanted to bring forth were percussion and brass, which are both extremely physical and embodied instruments - the percussion being the literal hitting and the brass being the breath of life. There are moments in the record where it was meant to push that to the limit. There are almost unplayable horn sections where I had to push my players. We’d have an hour break after because it was so difficult.
But that was the goal. It’s about the push and pull of physicality, your body, and trying to find yourself in that space. As I said, it’s not necessarily the most complex metaphor, but I think it’s a little bit elegant.
Your style has evolved from metaphorising heavenly mythology to grounding your work with a more earthly tone using horns and marching band percussion, as previously mentioned. How have you viewed your musical evolution over the past years, from the SoundCloud rap scene, through each EP leading up to your debut album?
On one level, it’s just growing up and being exposed to more things and just becoming more of a music head myself - listening to more things. That’s the base level answer.
On another level, it’s also reflective of this desire to become more embodying of the present. When I listen back to my first EP, I hear myself masking my own voice a lot more under reverb and effects, and progressively, my vocals have come more to the forefront and become less hidden and less affected. Similarly, with the song structure, it’s become less meandering and less about these big landscapes and much more focussed in on trying to find something that felt immediate and intense.
I think a lot of the previous work, which I’m still very proud of, was a lot more about looking around and then using that to reflect upon myself, whereas the infinite spine has the inverse of that where it’s about trying to push my inner world outside.
The sounds, the lyrics, the music videos, and the cohesiveness of the infinite spine can’t help but give me the feeling that you are building your own universe. We see many artists - musicians, painters, etc. create their own Utopias in their respective mediums, and I see many world building factors within your work. Is this something you aim to do? If so, how will the infinite spine fit into your world of storytelling moving forward as you continue to create and share music with the world?
That’s obviously a huge part of what I want to convey - is that there’s a space beyond just the pure songs, to have them exist in a literary world and a lyrical world. The recurrence of metaphor on this record, in some ways, goes back to what I said earlier. I like to imagine how it would feel as someone who cares about this music who isn’t me - to be able to hear the inner workings of the codex. That feels like an entire thing.
Beyond that, there’s always this necessity to contextualise and situate a thing that I’m making. It’s hard to say exactly what role all of this will have in my future records. I’m still working on the next project and figuring out what its identity is. It’s all building blocks.